Friday, 5 October 2012

#212 Enslaved - Riitiir

Riitiir is the first Enslaved full-length album to come out in the time that I've been aware of the band, and, as such, I'm not sure if the sheer level of anticipation is something which always greets their releases, or if this album made especially noteworthy waves within metal circles. All I know is that a lot of the metal community at large held very high expectations for the album; expectations of nothing but the best. Fortunately, Enslaved are the kind of band who can deliver just that. The best. 

It really took me a degree of thought about where to begin with this review, which is something which doesn't usually happen - I just charge in to it and salvage some semantic meaning later on. With Riitiir though, it was more of a puzzle. I'll spit out my initial reaction; This album is very, very good. Most, if not all, of its aspects seem to be somehow just right; the blend of black-metal, while considerably less than some of the bands progressive albums, is still utterly present, and blends wonderfully into the unique sound which the band have crafted for themselves over the years; the ever-strong harsh vocals continue the lullaby of clean vocals, smoother and better deployed than ever, really giving the songs a reeling, often melancholy feel, but also a soaring elegance, which is boosted to even greater heights by the complex, slightly percussive riff style which the band have been exhibiting on the last couple of albums. One of the things I notice, in comparison to Axioma Ethica Odini, the previous album, is that on Riitiir, Enslaved seem to have opted to increase the epic and atmospheric elements in the music, and Axioma Ethica Odini itself was an epic and atmospheric record, with reverb laden guitar work and subtle but truly complimenting synth. Riitiir puts these aspects up a gear however, with each and every song on the album sounding profound and extremely powerful; The moments like the slow, crushing riff after the intro to "Thoughts like Hammers" really carry an immense musical presence, whilst subtler sections deliver a lot of genuine beauty, with some fantastic tremolos and beautiful lead work, with a silken tone and richness which just strikes a chord with me immediately, pardon the pun.

Riitiir is strikingly, appreciably well-written. There,as far as my taste tells me, at least, not a hint of filler anywhere on the record; I'm even struggling to pick a favorite song. Sure, perhaps this means that the album can't really have a flagship, leading single in a strong sense, but that pales into insignificance when you consider that the most likely cause of this is that the album is uniformly good from start through to finish, on the kind of musical journey that only Enslaved could craft to sound quite the way that Riitiir does. As I see it, or rather, as a friend of mine put it, which I proceeded to steal and paraphrase quite frequently, there are two kinds of progressive music in the world; there is progressive the genre, and progressive the spirit. The former is paradoxical; bands professing to "progressive-metal", as a rule, sound amusingly similar these days. The latter, however, is where the good stuff is - bands doing unique and genuinely progressive things. It's immediately clear to see that Enslaved are one of the latter - Truly unique and fascinatingly so; The last few albums have been similar in style, but all sufficiently different to be very exciting, and Riitiir seems to be another link in this chain. It's almost a dilemma whether, when I weigh it up in my head, this album is better than Axioma Ethica Odini or not. The easy way around this, which I will proceed to take, is to say that Enslaved have made an incredible album. again. 

It's hard to say what I like most about the album; The thoughtfulness? the depth? the beauty? All of those elements are profoundly present. It makes me realise, the thing I like most isn't any individual element of the music; it's the way that Enslaved manage to blend them all together, a craft at which they are second to none. Indeed, this album has as much variety as any of it's predecessors. Maybe more. It always takes time for an album to settle from being "The new album" to being simply itself. I'm curious to see what insight the months give me into the album that I've yet to discover.

I've not given an album 10/10 in a long time. Enslaved have earned it.

Enslaved Official Site
Enslaved on Facebook
Enslaved on Myspace
Enslaved on Metal Archives